Chorley Little Theatre: The town's cultural beacon is now desperate for audiences to come back

In our latest Chorley 150 story, we focus on the theatre which has been the stage for many famous performers

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 2:38 pm
Updated Friday, 18th June 2021, 5:34 pm
Time And The Conways, one of the first plays performed by CADOS at Chorley Little Theatre in the early 1960s

The Chorley Guardian is featuring 150 stories about Chorley: Inspirational people, places that we love, or special moments in the life of the borough.

It's a countdown to our 150th anniversary on November 4 and we’re celebrating the community we’re proud to be a part of.

Chorley Little Theatre has seen a lengthy and unwelcome interval between performances because of the COVID restrictions.

We're asking Chorley Guardian readers to nominate 150 reasons to celebrate Chorley to mark the Guardian's 150th birthday

But the theatre in the old Empire Picture House on the corner of Dole Lane and Peter Street is still a cultural beacon for the town.

Operations Director Ian Robinson said: "It provides Chorley with some character, as well as entertainment that very few places have."

It’s 60 years since Chorley Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society opened up what later became Chorley Little Theatre

The old picture house was divided in two.

Steve Pemberton in a performance at Chorley Little Theatre before he left for college and went on to create some iconic television

Whereas the original screen had been at the back of the building (from entry on Dole Lane), the new stage was placed halfway down.

This meant a smaller capacity, more suitable for 1960s demand, and space behind the stage for dressing rooms and a bar.

The society staged six full productions a year, a schedule that was still running before COVID.

In 1986 CADOS created a Youth Theatre to develop younger talents, and the ethos has always been to let the youngsters (aged 11-19) run it themselves as much as possible.

The old picture house in Chorley in 1911

Many former members have gone on to have careers in the film and theatre industry.

Actors have gone on to perform in the West End, for Disney, and on stages all around the world.

Perhaps the best-known former members are Jodie Prenger, who won BBC One’s I’d Do Anything in 2008, and Steve Pemberton, also featured in this Chorley 150 series.

Prenger appeared in the CADOS production of Shakers and was also the support act for Sir Ken Dodd when he did a fundraising concert for the theatre in 1999.

Ian Robinson outside Chorley Little Theatre

Steve Pemberton starred as Anne Frank’s brother in 1983 and was in that year’s pantomime, Alice In Wonderland, before leaving for higher education and forming the League Of Gentlemen.

Acts to have also been on the Chorley Little Theatre stage include John Bishop, Jason Manford, Al Murray, Russell Howard, Cannon and Ball, and Romesh Ranganathan.

Chris Ramsey and Jenny Éclair have been several times, while Dave Spikey and Steve Royle are regular faces.

Now, just like 60 years ago, Chorley Council is helping CADOS grow and the society is expanding into the former Indian restaurant next door.

Currently in the process of being converted, this new room will be Chorley Theatre Studio.

With two stages across two buildings, the venue is not 'little' any more and is being renamed simply Chorley Theatre.

Britain's Got Talent finalist Steve Royle on stage at Chorley Little Theatre

Ian says of the past few months and the impact of the pandemic: "This has been the toughest time for us and it's great that audiences have been so patient.

"We're now desperate for our audiences to come back."

Chorley 150 countdown

Send in your suggestions for our stories in the next few months and let's celebrate 150 years together.

Whether its a person, a place, an event, a sporting moment, drop us a line via email [email protected]

We'd love to hear from you.

In case you missed it ... read more from our Chorley 150 countdown: